The Racism Heard Round the World

On race relations, the United States has slipped into the same category as Burundi and Iraq. After the violence in Charlottesville earlier this month — and the outrage generated by President Trump’s response — the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination issued an “early warning.” As the chair of the committee, Anastasia Crickley, put it: “We are alarmed...
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Who’s a Bad Jew?

In the TV show Transparent, the Pfeffermans are an infuriating family. Mort, the patriarch, is transitioning to Maura, and much of the focus of the show is on the transgender experience. But it’s hard to miss that Maura and her three children, not to mention ex-wife Shelly, are narcissists who wreak havoc on anyone who comes into emotional proximity. It’s a brilliant portrayal of complex...
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The Lost Language of Integration

In a recent This American Life episode, investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones discusses the perils of America’s segregated school system. She points out that there has been only one proven way to narrow the performance gap between African-American and white schoolchildren, and it has nothing to do with magnet schools, or Teach for America, or any of the newfangled efforts to right a...
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A Failed State in Latin America

Venezuela is at the mercy of its fluids. For a country that depends on oil for 95 percent of its exports, the prolonged drop in the price of crude has been a serious financial blow. If nothing else, though, Venezuela should be able to use its oil resources to keep the lights on and the factories going. After all, Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world. It has more than Saudi...
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Je Suis Encore Charlie?

Charlie was a pretty good musician. He played guitar, composed songs. Dennis Wilson, the drummer and co-founder of the Beach Boys, befriended Charlie and tried to help him make it in the music industry. He arranged for the young man to make a studio album, which eventually came out in 1974. But before that, the Beach Boys recorded a tune Charlie had written for them. The song, “Never Learn Not...
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Syria’s Two-Body Problem

In medieval Europe, the king had two bodies. He sat on his throne in his own personal body, which suffered from the same sicknesses and infirmities that afflict all corporeal beings. But he also possessed a second body, the body politic, which represented the entire realm. The king served as “head of state,” a phrase that harkens back to this peculiar political theology. After the death of...
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